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Interview with French celebrity Chef Hervé Frerard, new Chef of Ginett

”Do what you love and love what you do (…) work hard!” That is the only advice French Chef Hervé Frerard would give to any aspiring chef. Indeed, pushed by his love for gastronomy, the French gourmet has travelled all around the world looking for new flavours and premium ingredients. However his heart stays in Asia where he has been living for over 30 years now. Especially renowned in Thailand where he has opened several restaurants and even cooked for the King of Thailand, Hervé Frerard is bringing to Singapore’s Ginett Restaurant and Wine bar his French touch as its new Executive Chef.

Chef Hervé welcomed us at Ginett and shared with us his culinary journey, his inspirations and his ambitions. Passionate about food and cultures, forthcoming with his insights, Chef Hervé’s eyes lit up when he spoke with us about what he finds authentic in cuisine and how he seeks to share his savoir-faire with future generations.

Did you always know that you were going to be chef ?

No, I wanted to be a musician. My sister played the violin and my brother the guitar. But it was boring so I became a chef, it is certainly better.

So how did you become a chef ?

Well most of my family is in the wine business, that is how I got into it.

Do you look up to any chef ? Anyone that inspires you ?

Yes of course, my mum. She is not very good though but of course I like her food. I rarely cook for her though, but that is because she feels like I would mess up her kitchen.

So you’ve lived in Asia for quite a while now, do you find Asian cuisine influencing your culinary style ?

I’ve been here for over 30 years in fact. I love Asian food though I don’t use Asian food in my cooking because I think it would be really obvious. Sometimes I do take some ideas of flavour, but that’s all. As for types of cuisine, I enjoy especially Japanese food and am more about sashimi than sushi. I also like Vietnamese and Thai cuisine.

What do you think about Singapore food scene, having been here before as Guest Chef a few months ago ?

Well, one thing that I can say is that Singaporean people are foodies, and picky about food. But that’s why I came here. It is not easy to make it in Singapore, and it is in fact very challenging. So I want to put my mark here.

You know, it’s difficult to say but in Singapore, people are very demanding, I guess it is the standard when you live here. But I find that really cool, I really like Singapore actually; I like to be here, I like my team. But I guess that I still have things to learn.

Have your French origins influenced your creation of dishes and your menu ?

Definitely, I am from the wine region and my mom from the south of France. My food has Mediterranean, Italian and French influences, that also come from my father’s side. I use a lot of vegetables.

Can you tell us more about Ginett’s menu ?

I haven’t changed the menu yet, but I’m working on it so that it will be ready in a one or two month’s time. It is going to be a real “bistro” food. A simple cuisine, with quality ingredients, some good ideas and Mediterranean, Italian and French influences.

The menu will be based on Ginett’s concept. I don’t want to change the concept because Ginett works very well and its reputation is really good. What I want to do is to bring more quality and introduce some “plats du jour“, some everyday specials. I also want to consolidate the team. These are my first missions.

Ginett is a mix of everything right ? Diner, wine, cheese, …

We have a lot of wines yes. You should come here, especially on Wednesday. You can try good wines and be full of cheeses!

How about farm to table eating ? Because that is what you do, right ?

Yes that is what I do. I have a farm in Thailand. I used to work in Thailand and have my own farm where I grew my own vegetables. For my restaurants in Bangkok, I didn’t buy anything, I basically used ingredients from the farm. However, it is a bit difficult in Singapore because there’re no farms, so we do have to import the products, but it is mainly organic food.

Is there a specific region you’re importing from ?

A little from everywhere, France, Australia, and I’m trying to find things from other parts of Asia. I think there are some really good products in Malaysia, and I like to explore you know. I need to work on that.

We have a very good collection of wines that we bring in from small vinyards, mostly family chateaux in France, from the region of Burgundy for instance. The quality is great and you have to try it.

My next step after Ginett is to teach (…) those who want to follow the career of a chef.
Hervé Frerard

So you run a couple of restaurants and projects, how do you manage all of this ?

I have two restaurants on my own. Concerning my projects, I opened a school in Hong Kong and I’m going to open another one in Bangkok. I am also the president of one of the largest association of chef in the world.

It is true that I do a lot of things. For now, I am focused on Ginett, but I have a special attachment for the kids, and my next step after Ginett is to teach.

We teach young people, those who want to follow the career of a chef. That’s what I’ve been doing for ten years already.

Do you have any advice for those who want to become a chef ?

Yes, do what you love and love what you do, that is my only advice. Work hard!

Do you miss France ?

No. I miss my parents, the country no. I’ve been away for so long, you were probably not even born yet.

Then how do you keep up with new techniques ?

I travel all over the world : every year I travel at least 6 or 7 times to work with different kinds of chef in different countries, and then you get a lot of these new techniques, it is incredible.

You know technology in the kitchen evolves everyday, you would be amazed. But it goes too far, because people try to reinvent, there’s no more the human touch, many find that they lost the plot, so now the older concepts are coming back.

It is interesting to travel you know. I went to Spain, Portugal, 6 months ago I was in Chile, Argentina then New York and Canada. You get to see how people work, it is different everywhere.

Is that a challenge ?

No, it’s nice, you only take things, you take then you think after. Thanks to that I have a lot of ideas.

However I mostly use my own techniques when teaching at my school, the way I teach and the way I proceed are all personal.

You know, the first thing I do when I travel is going to the market! The best way to learn about a country : you go to the local market. Then you learn about the customs. I have been to the fish markets in Malaysia and in Seoul, Korea, and it is an experience.

The best way to learn about the country : you go to the local market.
Hervé Frerard
French Shopping, Dining & Lifestyle guide in Singapore